Oct 272010
Authors: Nic Turiciano

It’s in the butcher’s room that Nick Santos discussed the business behind his haunted house.

Leaning on the stainless steel table, with his weight resting on elbows that came close to touching a limbless torso, Santos stated that this is what he wanted his first business to be.

Old Town Scare, located in the old Goodwill building on Walnut Street, just east of College Avenue, is Fort Collins’ newest haunted house. Its mass of fake blood, headless dolls, strobe lights and mechanical spiders is the result of Santos’ and his fiance/business partner, Avery West’s, hard work.

Santos, who graduated from CSU in 2005, and West, who graduated in 2006, began planning and saving in preparation for their unlikely first business last October.

Santos, who was working as a chef at Bisetti’s Italian Restaurant in Fort Collins, quit his job in August and began work on OTS.

“We have wanted to start our own business for a while. We had three or four different business models that we had seriously thought about. The size of this project was good for us,” Santos said.

The size of the project, though, would be difficult to describe as small, especially for two people.

From the ornately disheveled children’s room –– complete with a terrifying Justin Bieber poster –– to the walk-in-freezer full of suspended corpses, it’s hard not to realize that the project required a great deal of planning and effort.

OTS took the pair six weeks to build and is made up of four distinct and gruesome sections.

Beginning in a kitchen with blood-spattered walls, the attraction wanders through a section themed as a house, then a butcher’s shop, then on to a nuclear apocalypse-themed hospital and ends in a dungeon.

Beyond the construction and preparation, Santos and Avery couldn’t act as the entire staff by themselves. That’s partly why every Wednesday night is dedicated to a different charity.

The past two weeks’ charities were Animal House and the Larimer County Child Advocacy Center.

Wednesday’s charity was the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association.

“We dedicate the night to them and basically 3 dollars of every ticket sold was donated or is going to be donated to those organizations. It’s fun because they get to supply some of the actors in the haunted house,” West said.

In addition to the charities, Santos and West said, the haunted house is staffed by between 20 and 30 actors, hired primarily through craigslist.com, every night of operation.

“Neither of us have a background in acting or anything like that. I guess it’s been surprising to see how everybody in general really morphs into a different person when they put on a mask or makeup. I mean, there’s this other side of Nick that’s like ‘Whoa, I had no idea this existed,’” West said.  

Santos and West, who both live near Old Town, made finding a space in Old Town a priority because of its proximity to the college-aged community of Fort Collins.

“We were trying to gear it toward a college-age haunted house that was not kiddy. It’s fairly intense. That was the goal and the both of us really had the same vision, so it made it easy to make that vision come to life,” West said.

And after Sunday, the vision that has come to life will close down after its month in operation.
It will be an appropriately rapid change from running a business that sees its spotlight for only a brief period of the year to tying the knot.

The couple will have only nine days to dismantle what took six weeks to construct before leaving to Florida for their own wedding.

Staff writer Nic Turiciano can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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